Health workers fear the axe in service shake-up

The Mayor Coun Ernest Gibson and Mayoress Patricia Ridley, with health trainers Caroline Bainbridge, left, and Dianne Robinson, right
The Mayor Coun Ernest Gibson and Mayoress Patricia Ridley, with health trainers Caroline Bainbridge, left, and Dianne Robinson, right

HEALTH experts who are helping people in South Tyneside improve their lifestyles fear for their jobs as part of a review of services.

For the past eight years a team of health trainers have been supporting and motivating people across the borough to adopt healthier lifestyles.

But the trainers fear the shake-up will cost them their jobs.

The health trainers are employed by the North East Council on Addictions (NECA), which is commissioned by South Tyneside Council to provide services throughout the borough.

But as part of a review of services, it is understood NECA may no longer be contracted to deliver the service.

The news has angered supporters of the service, with some branding it as “disappointing” and “devastating.”

Service user Malcolm Osborne, who has been supported by the trainers during his return to the gym, said: “When I was told the service could be coming to an end, I couldn’t believe it.

“The whole point of the health trainers is to motivate and encourage people to live a more healthier lifestyle, so if they go, who is going to help people?

“I just feel disappointed. It flies in the face of improving people’s health and it will inevitably hit the health service.”

He added: “We have a huge push with the Change 4 Life programme, but yet we appear to be looking at getting rid of the very people who can help motivate people to make changes to benefit their lives.”

The health trainers were introduced eight years ago with the aim of helping to give people that extra push when it comes to breaking bad habits.

They hold drop-in sessions in the community to assist residents in giving up smoking, improving their diet, exercising more or reducing stress.

Coun Ernest Gibson, who used information provided by health trainers in the past to shed the pounds and improve his own lifestyle, said: “I have been contacted by residents who have been helped and supported by the health trainers, concerned about the future of the service.

“When I was mayor, I visited the trainers at Boldon Lane Action Station. They deliver such an invaluable service to the people of South Tyneside, and to hear their jobs are under threat does raise concerns as to what is going to happen next.

“I have been supported in the past by the health trainers to lose weight. They are a valuable resource. ”

A spokesman for South Tyneside Diabetes UK Group said: “I am really disappointed with this news. The health trainers are a really valuable asset. They are approachable and help to motivate so many people to change their lifestyles for the better.

“They are very proactive and informative and have supported the diabetes group no end. It is just devastating news that we are going to lose them.”

A South Tyneside Council spokesman said: “We are reviewing services to ensure we’re delivering the best health and wellbeing outcomes as well as best value for money on behalf of the council. We will be announcing the new arrangements very soon.”

Caron Cook, regional treatment manager at NECA was not available for comment.

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